As I read more and more articles by my already all-time favourite journalist Joseph Mitchell, I get more and more interested in the whole development of the literary style of journalism that Mitchell employed. I wouldn’t say that I was a complete stranger to the form, because I already have a couple of books on the subject, but these are more to do with learning the techniques of literary journalism, rather than learning the development of the form itself.
Enter this book, which I added to my bookshelves just before Christmas (at fairly considerable expense may I add). It’s title of course, is True Stories: A Century of Literary Journalism by Norman Sims (Northwestern University Press), and it claims to be a book which focuses primarily on the history and development of literary journalism; exactly the kind of book I was looking for. The question that remains though, is whether this book is the DEFINITIVE word on the history and development of literary journalism?
Well, for me, having not read it yet, it’s too early to say, although I certainly haven’t seen much else in the way of competition (maybe somebody out there knows better?). I will say that I’m impressed at how well the author Norman Sims qualifies himself. He’s a professor of journalism at the University of Massachusetts, and the editor of a number of additional publications which focus on literary journalism, And he only seems to underline all of this by showing a high degree of passion for the subject (you can get a real feel of that passion by reading Brian Spadora’s interview with Sims over at Poynter Online).
It’s looking promising, but there’s one thing that makes it look even more so! It’s the one thing that made me buy this book instantly; without question and without a second thought. And that one thing is the fact that Norman Sims spent many hours in the presence of Joseph Mitchell before he died, learning about his life and his style of journalism. And much of what Sims learnt from Mitchell during this time is included in this book.
So there we go I’ve answered my own question, regardless of the fact that I haven’t even read the book yet. True Stories: A Century of Literary Journalism offers a direct link to Mitchell, and that to me is about as definitive as it gets!